I’ve been asked to write more about what I’m doing here in Peru, so here’s a quick explanation. I’m here on sabbatical from teaching to help Awamaki, which in Quechuan means hand-woven, with new designs for their woman’s co-operative. So far I have designed two new products, a yoga mat bag (big surprise!) and an infinity scarf with a hidden pocket for money and passports. I have incorporated their beautiful hand-woven textiles into these designs which can be purchased at Awamaki’s fair-trade store here in Ollanta and also online. I will also be going to the village of Patacancha to learn traditional back-strap weaving and stay with a local family for three days to learn about their community. Here’s a photo of Awamaki’s office.
For the next six weeks, this is going to be my home!! I am traveling to Peru to volunteer at Awamaki, an amazing organization that works with Peruvian women in the Sacred Valley.
This past September, I was lucky enough to travel to Paris and study Haute Couture embroidery at Ecole Lesage as part of my graduate studies at The School for New Learning at Depaul University. Lesage has a strict ‘no photo’ policy, so I cannot share with you the interior of the space, only the entrance to the school.
Lesage takes their needlework very seriously, and offers 9 levels of training consisting of 30 hours of instruction for each level. A student can also enroll in their professional training program which adds up to a total of 150 hours of classroom instruction. Lesage is famous for creating the beautiful embroidered pieces for most Couture houses in Paris, and being able to study at the school was both thrilling and a bit overwhelming.
They offer two classes daily, in the morning and afternoon, and since I had limited time, I decided to take back to back classes for one week in order to get in the 30 hours required for the level one course. The instructors recommend working independently on your project before the next class, which in my case didn’t happen as I was in Paris and wanted to see more than just the inside of my hotel and the classroom.
A good portion of the work is done with the Luneville hook, which is like a baby crochet hook. Two of my classmates who have been embroidering for years commented that this was like nothing that they had done before and were struggling as much as I was with the technique. I think I failed to mention that my experience with embroidery was pretty much non-existent before coming to Lesage. The teachers were wonderful and very patient, but we were on a schedule, with many techniques to learn and they kept us moving at quick pace.
My only recommendation to prospective students is to allow enough time between classes in order to absorb and practice the techniques learned.